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The Writer Facing The Blank Page

Facing the Blank Page
by Amy Rosenberg

Every time I sit down to write – whether it’s to continue on with a piece I’ve already started or to begin something brand new – I’m always faced with the same thing: a blank page. With the previously-started piece, obviously it has words there that already show me where I’ve been – but not necessarily where I’m going. So, no matter what I’m working on, the question always comes to mind, “What am I going to write?” Even if I have an idea of what I want to say, even if I’ve done lots of planning and research, and even if I know what I’ve already wrote, the same things come up: “How am I going to put something down that’s interesting and believable? How am I going to make this work?”

I’ve been working on a piece of writing for some time now that’s been turning into a novel. It didn’t begin that way, and I didn’t expect the story to go the route it has. I certainly know where I’ve been with it and at this point have a couple of ideas about where it’s going, and I can try to shape it in that direction if I wish.

But here’s the thing – I actually love the blank page. I actually love not knowing what’s going to happen next. To me, a blank page opens up lots of questions, but also lots of opportunities. I like having an idea about where I’m going, but if I have to plan every step of a story before I write it down, I’m limited by that. Such a method may work for a technical piece, but not for creative writing – even authors who work this way need to leave room for the unexpected.

Which doesn’t mean that it’s not scary sometimes working this way. I’ve lost count of all the times where I’ve gotten to a point where I’ll go, “Where do I go next?” – where it won’t be just a question but also a mild panic. There are times when I don’t want to look at a piece, where I’ve gotten stuck or I just want to trash it, because I’ve drawn a blank or hit a wall.

But what the blank page offers me is permission to try anything – the worst that can happen is that it doesn’t work. But then I can try something else. If I make myself too rigid with my writing, if I don’t leave room for errors or mistakes, then I am setting myself up for failure. Because rarely is anything perfect the first time.

Besides, it’s way more fun to try something without expectations, and facing the blank page with a spirit of openness and curiosity offers that to me.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, April 7th, 2009 at 11:52 am and is filed under Industry News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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